You would think it’s David Beckham’s million-dollar smile that gets all the attention at the City of Miami these days, particularly after getting the go-ahead for the 73-acre soccer stadium project near Miami International Airport.
But he’s competing with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, the grand facilitator of the plan to develop the Miami Freedom Park and Soccer Village as part of a 99-year lease of the city’s Melreese golf course. In the grand picture of things, Miami gets a whole lot of new development and drawing people around the world, with the biggest names in soccer and celebrities coming here with their money. Few mixed-use sports-related projects hold the promise of the Miami Freedom Park and Soccer Village and we have Mayor Suarez to thank for taking it over the finish line.
So what does Miami get, if all the zoning hurdles are overcome and the height issues are addressed? Beckham’s group will have the rights to build a shopping center, an office complex, and a 750-key hotel, with Miami getting no less than $4 million a year in perpetuity. The partnership, which includes corporate executives Jorge and José Mas, must also work with the University of Miami to adapt the stadium to allow for football games, which would be operational by 2025.
Beckham has been trying to get the project approved since 2013. And it would not have happened without Suarez, who supported a referendum to give the partnership the right to pursue the Miami Freedom Park and Soccer Village project. After the referendum passed, the City of Miami got the green light to work with Beckham and his team to build a dream stadium off of State Road 836 just outside Miami International Airport.
The group had successfully lobbied Miami leaders in 2018 to hold a referendum on the stadium negotiations for building the Miami Freedom Park and Soccer Village. It passed, giving Miami the go-ahead to negotiate the exclusive lease on a golf course that sits on city parkland off State Road 836.
As part of the deal with the City of Miami, the Beckham team must develop nearly 60 acres of the site into a park and pay another $25 million for new parks elsewhere.
In the end, this is a big win for the City of Miami and an even bigger win for the political prospects of Mayor Suarez, who showed that determination and perseverance still matter in this country.
Some of the patina had come off of Suarez star, but now it’s shiny and new, streaking through the Miami skyline like a comet. Few cities in the country can claim they have every major national sport available to its residents and Miami now has a stadium that will be the envy of the country and the world.
It took patience, but Miami Mayor Francis Suarez made it happen. From all of us in Miami, thank you Mayor Suarez for putting everything on the line and bringing home the Miami Freedom Park and Soccer Village.